So Last Frontier: The Vesuvius Incident is a game that's been around a while, and that I remember seriously enjoying, but for various reasons haven't actually brought to the table for quite a while - several years, in fact (I'm just not as big on solitaire games now that I have a wife to pester about playing games with me). So I thought I'd pull it out again today and see if it still holds up to how I remember it.
I looked through the rulebook, and reviewed the "Last Frontier Simplified" document I uploaded all those years ago, got to the point where I felt I had it down fairly well (or at least knew where to find information when I needed it), set up the board and started off on the adventure.
Right off hand I noticed a couple of issues when setting up; the map sheet suffered from the same problem that many paper-printed maps have, that being that the creases tend to bow up and down creating little hills and valleys that you sometimes have to balance your chits against - that, and the game probably took a good 20+ minutes just to set up (something that may be improved next time, as I've now separately bagged tokens that go on the map board, tokens that go into the random-draw cup, and various status tokens that are just set aside at the start - rather than having to sort them as I go such as I had to do this time).
So I piled up all of my marines into the marine shuttle, got ready to disembark, went through the airlock (after double-checking that no, you don't have to check for being attacked in an airlock), entered the first corridor.. and immediately wondered how to handle it.
Based on the turn sequence, while in "Explore" mode (no aliens on the board), marine movement is supposed to be free - but then again, as soon as you enter a corridor, you're supposed to check for an alien ambush.
So does that mean that as soon as the first marine enters the corridor he should stop right there until we find out if there's an attack, or can he move to the middle of the room if I want, along with as many of the other 11 marines behind him that I might want?
As the turn sequence doesn't say anything about revealing the ambush until the next phase of the turn, I assumed it was the latter most of the time.
Once in the corridor, a die roll is made to determine if you're ambushed or not. If you are, another die roll is made to determine where those aliens appear in the room (right on top of you, a few spaces away, etc).
You then roll again to determine if the ambush was actually a surprise or not - if it was, the aliens immediately begin chomping on your marines. If not, your marines will get to attack first when the next round starts.
When the next turn starts (due to there now being aliens on the map), you're now in "Combat mode," and everything sort of goes slow-mo. You can no longer just move around all willy-nilly, you now have to pay strict attention to your movements and actions. Your marines can stand still, walk, or jog - the faster they go the farther they can move on a turn, but the more likely it will be that they will miss their shot when they attack.
For your marines to attack, you have to check on what weapon each one will be firing with, usually either a rifle or a plasma gun. Check how far away the target is, and then look up the number of spaces on the range chart (point-blank, short, medium, etc).
Then check in the upper right of the chart of the weapon you are using to see what you have to roll on 2d6 to hit (It took me a little bit to figure that part out, thankfully I had written about it in my "clarification" notes - it's an unlabeled series of numbers along the lines of "3/3/4/6" in the corner), and then if you hit, you roll 1d6 to find out what happened when you hit. If you're really good, you may have killed an alien. If not, you probably just "downed" it.
Now, assuming you hit the alien, if you killed it, hopefully you didn't kill it when it was right on top of you - if you did, everybody on that space automatically has to roll on the acid spray damage table. Depending on the roll this might not hurt at all, might cause a severe wound, or might kill the marine. In all cases the spacesuit is now considered breached.
"Downed" aliens only have a 50% chance of actually being dead, and if they're not, they may actually get a surprise attack.
If you were really unlucky and your shot totally misses, the round doesn't just vanish - you have to follow the path it would take past the alien and assume it hit whatever is next in line - this could be another marine, it could be a door, it could be a computer, and so on just depending on what else is in the room.
OK, so then after all that, the aliens get to attack.
Most of them can only attack when they are on the same square as a human, and then when they are they will use a claw attack, again rolling against an attack table. That marine could be instantly killed, could be seriously wounded etc.
NOW - something I unfortunately didn't recall/realize until the aliens had already killed off a number of my guys - most of the time, when an alien is attacking a marine, you are not rolling against the "human" line on the chart - you are rolling against the "armored" line.
It probably would not have been as much of a one-sided slaughter if I had realized that from the start (in fact, I just *now* noticed, as I'm writing this, that there is another chart (7.0A) that lists all of the unit types and what category they fall under when rolling. Interestingly, there are alien types that are considered "human" on the attack charts).
OK - now that all that is done, time to check if the space station has started re-entry yet - this is done using a system where one of 5 random tiles will start the process when turned over (which only happens during non-combat phases).
Once re-entry starts, every turn (apparently whether you're in combat or not), the ship dips further into the atmosphere, and the chances are greater and greater that it will be destroyed if you get an unlucky roll of the dice (for me it happened *very* soon thanks to rolling a 2 on 2d6).
So the game was a series of these events happening in sequence - grouping your marines in ways that you feel is best (probably in ways in which your specialists are protected as much as possible) so they can go exploring the large number of areas on the space station, checking for alien attacks, gas attacks, and other events in every room, in hopes that in the process you'll run across human survivors and/or records of what happened to the missing people, and then get off of the floating death-trap before it burns up in the atmosphere.
It was... what is the word I want... daunting, maybe?
I found the main problem to be the same one that the game has always had - just the insane amount of stuff you have to keep track of every time you do anything, anywhere.
For the Marines -
Is a marine by himself? If so, check to see if he is abducted.
If not, are there aliens in the same area? (often the answer is yes).
If so, do you want any of the marines to move?
If so, are they walking, jogging, or running?
Are they carrying a heavy load, such as a plasma gun or another human?
Are they wounded?
Are they walking through foam?
Is the area they're walking through cluttered?
Is there gravity?
Do you then want them to attack?
Are any of the humans panicking? If so, they flip out first.
Otherwise, are they walking, jogging, or running?
Are they carrying another person?
Are there other people or aliens in the way?
How far away is the target?
What weapon are you using?
Is it jammed?
If you hit a target, was it killed or downed?
If it was killed, was it right on top of any marines who may now die from the acid spray?
If it was downed, is it actually dead or is it going to jump up and attack again?
...and that's just a sampling.
So what are my thoughts now that it's been a few years and I've had to re-learn how to play?
Well, if I were to be bluntly honest I would have to admit that rules are still a serious hurdle. I can assure you without any doubt at all, that I played much of this session wrong, mostly because there were so many things I needed to know when playing my turn that I either forgot about many of them or in some cases didn't even realize it was something I was supposed to check.
There were also a few rules here and there that even after the FAQs and clarifications found online I'm still not sure about (for example, the "running away" rules - if an alien runs away and out a door, what happens to it? Does it then hang out, outside the door, or does it vanish and go back in the cup? What if a marine runs away and out a door? Do the aliens follow him through the door? And if not do they stay in the room, or get returned to the cup?)
However - I think that once you've got a few plays under your belt, to the point where all of the stuff you have to think about from turn to turn comes more naturally, and I'm not spending so much time wondering what charts I'm supposed to be checking instead of using that time to get into the story - I think there is still a really neat game here, and I do have fond memories of a decade ago when I played it regularly, picturing the tenseness and excitement of movies like "Aliens" while my marines were out blowing up aliens and getting killed by acid sprays.
I'd still recommend it - just be prepared (possibly with some Tylenol on the side) for a steep learning curve and more than likely very slow play for the first couple of plays or so until you get the hang of it.
- Last edited Sun Sep 30, 2012 2:20 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Sat Sep 29, 2012 10:52 pm
Morten Monrad Pedersen
Thank you for your write up - as a backer of the Kickstarter for the reprint of this game it's great to get a fresh perspective on this game.
Looks like a fine rendition of the original X-Com ploy. Just that you now check all the charts whereas the computer does them all for you.
Lawrence Hung wrote:
Looks like a fine rendition of the original X-Com ploy.
The earliest X-COM game was released in 1994, the year after LF:tVI.
Based on the turn sequence, while in "Explore" mode (no aliens on the board), marine movement is supposed to be free
This only applies to areas "currently occupied by friendly units" (section 4.2). To get into the main corridor, the guys in the airlock must perform a Deploy action during the Orbit phase. The Discovery phase comes right after Orbit, which eliminates the timing issues you mention.
Once re-entry starts, every turn (apparently whether you're in combat or not)
2.21: Once re-entry starts you remain on combat alert for the rest of the game.
if an alien runs away and out a door, what happens to it
This is detailed in 6.1. If there's humans in the space, they roll a new reaction and carry it out. If the space is empty, the alien vanishes back into the cup.
What if a marine runs away and out a door? Do the aliens follow him through the door?
This is also in that rule. They vanish into the cup.
I admit the game system is somewhat daunting by today's complexity standards.